Our Short Break in Stratford-on-Avon – Part 2

Part two of this report on our short break in Stratford-on-Avon is all about the gardens of Shakespeare and his family. After spending time indoors studying the life and times of the Bard is was good to be outside discovering some outdoor history.

We will begin by looking at the grounds of the Shakespeare family home, where roses seem the most important plant. The planting today does not necessarily relate in any way to how it was in the Bard’s day. We loved this bronze of Shakespeare which seemed to capture his intelligence and depth of thinking and feeling, as well as the contemporary pencil sketch of the house.

 

In total contrast but just a short walk away, is “The New Place”, a celebration of Shakespeare’s life with exciting modern garden design and statuary. Each piece of statuary and each plant combination provides hints of the period as well as adding atmosphere. There were brilliant plant combinations combined sensitively with modern sculptural constructions. Softening of modern hard landscaping was carried out using soft, whispy grasses such as Stipa tennuissima Pony Tails.

    

The globe under the tree feature had a real surprise in store fr when you got close to the tree you realised it was cast in bronze. Goldfinches loved it and sang from its upper branches!

       

A more open space beyond he building and the modern garden area had a completely different feel to it contrasting strongly and providing a peaceful space to rest and have a quick coffee served by a barista on a bicycle. Long double borders with a central path ran along one side of the large green, with topiarised hedging and perennial planting.

  

Finally a parterre area felt much more in keeping with the garden style of the Shakespearian era, providing another contrasting area to explore. Lavenders gave off beautiful gentle scent.

    

 

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Our short break in Stratford-upon-Avon – Part 1

In June of 2018 we decided to visit Stratford-on-Avon for a short mid-week break as it has been several years since we last visited. We decided to stay in the centre and concentrate on exploring the centre.

Here is a series of pics of a morning wandering around the town centre, with its half-timbered buildings, the riverside, the theatre and even a sculptured hedge for added interest. There is such a wide ranging style of architecture within the town that no street is void of interest. What has made exploration easier since our last visit is the change in emphasis from traffic friendly roads to pedestrianisation and safe crossings.

  

We visited the house in which William Shakespeare grew up and where his father ran a business making high-class leather gloves. A very smelly business being carried out in a family house must have been a difficult combination. The house had many examples of leather making paraphernalia as well as furnished family rooms.

 

Here is a set of photos of the living quarters of the Shakespeare family home.

          

The working craftrooms were busy places and their stench must have emanated throughout the living quarters. Despite the stenches prevalent within the workshops the gloves made were stunnungly beautiful, colours subtle and textures so soft.

   

Our favourite artefact was a beautiful hand crafted leather glove just like those that Shakespeare’s father would have made.

The second part in this series about our Stratford break will be all about the gardens related to Shakespeare and his family.

 

 

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Gregynog Part 2 – the woodland walks

Here we are back at the NGS garden, Gregynog where you left us just starting out on our exploration of the park’s woodland. We wandered past the rose hedge along the gravel drive before turning off to the left along a gravel track which took us past mature trees, both conifers and deciduous, with an understorey of shrubs. Autumn colours were beginning to show in their foliage.

  

Acers beneath the tree canopy provided bright splashes of colour.

   

We soon found ourselves having to cross over the driveway to enter the woodands and almost immediately came across the lake. We began to meet several other couples and families taking advantage of the weather and the woodland trails, as well as a few more serious runners using the “Green Gym”. We took the path that took us almost all around the lake and then took a side track, grassed underfoot, into the woodland itself. We walked beneath mature wrinkled Birches which let plenty of light through to allow an understory to grow away happily.

        

After walking half a mile into the woodland the pathsides were a mass of tall growing golden leaved brackens. The tallest were the same height as Jude, the Undergardener.

On the wood floor beneath the trees a carpet of colourful fallen leaves gave a soft surface for us to walk on.

A final surprise were the dens built around and against the tree trunks by young visitors enjoying the special woodland atmosphere.

Leaving the woodland we could see the hall through the trees, and then we discovered the “Green Gym”, where wooden gym structures awaited the fit and healthy visitors.

So that was our day out at Gregynog, a completely new garden to us and one we would enjoy visiting again.

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Gregynog – a garden with woodland walks

Another NGS garden we visited last summer is called by the wonderful name Gregynog.

Gregynog is situated in the county of Powys and just has to be worth a visit sporting such a magical name, like something out of the Hobbit or a Hans Christian Anderson tale. Winding lanes eventually led us to a scented drive lined with roses. Here we gained the first glimpses of the half-timbered hall itself and the brick-built reception buildings. October light helped us to appreciate the garden, woodland and buildings.

 

The gardeners here certainly know how to prune and shape common shrubs to give them an extra edge. The first two photos are of Cotoneaster, trimmed to domes.

The garden around the front of the hall afforded us more opportunities to enjoy the gardeners’ pruning and trimming work.

The low sunlight caught this stand of asters lighting it up from a distance and as we walked closer to look we spotted this wonderful old seat, carved from a fallen tree.

We continued around the building all the time getting views of the hall above us.

We then came to a walks sign directing us to choose a walk to follow and we chose to make our way to the woodland walks and lake. We walked back alongside the hedge of scented roses at the side of the driveway, taking in their delicate colours and rich aromas.

As we reached the end of the row of roses we turned towards the woodland walk, aiming  towards the lake, passing an Acer grove along the way, but this is all in part 2 of these posts about our visit to Gregynog.

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Another NGS Yellow Book Shropshire Garden – Sunningdale

I would like now to look back to the summer gone to share some visits and re-visits to other National Garden Scheme (NGS) gardens from a town garden to a huge old garden in North Wales.

The garden at Sunningdale is a half acre town garden in the north Shropshire market town of Wem. Friends had recommended the garden to us so as the garden opening season is coming to an end we decided to make the half hour journey northward up the A49.

We received a warm and very cheerful welcome as we took a path through an open gateway, which took us around the side of the house to reveal a garden that invites visitors to wander. We discovered some interesting bits and pieces on our way around the side of the villa. Plus of course some exciting colours from flowering plants.

  

This delicate tall elegant yellow flowered plant was unknown to us and luckily labelled, Dendromecon rigida, the Poppy Tree. What a treat it always is to discover new plants.

 

Interesting pruning techniques and styles by the owners had breathed new life into otherwise rather dull conifers. Conifers are carved into recesses for seats or entranceways to another part of the garden, or simply to frame a piece of sculpture.

These solid conifers have been carefully trimmed in a way that implies almost drawing with shears.  Beautiful!

To share the rest of this lovely garden I shall finish of with a gallery which follows our wanderings discovering so many different aspects of the garden. Enjoy by simply clicking on the first photo then navigating using the arrows.

 

 

 

 

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My Garden Journal 2018 – December

Here we are with the final visit to my Garden Journal 2018, as we discover what has been going on at out Avocet patch in December. It has been a year of difficult weather for us gardeners with freezing winds, a wet spring followed by a drought in the summer. It has been a bit of a trial really encouraging things to grow and struggling to get new plants established. But of course none of this spoilt our enjoyment of our garden and gardening itself.

I began my entries for December by writing, “December arrived on the scene feeling milder but certainly not brighter than November. Thankfully the winds were gentle and had turned from the cold air carrying Easterlies to the warmer, wetter Westerlies. The winter sun sends low rays of light that capture the colours and textures of our trees especially Betulas and Prunus serrula.” I then featured photographs of our Prunus serrula and some of our Betulas.

Over the page I moved on to look at our ferns and then small shrubs with many coloured foliage.

I wrote, “Ferns are so useful in the garden mostly in places of shade or partial shade. In December they still look fresh and vibrant. A few though show browning of leaf edges and some die right down turning a rich gingery-brown.” Then I shared a selection of photos of some of our ferns.

On the opposite page it was our small shrubs that sport interesting foliage that featured. We have only recently started using low growing shrubs for their foliage as we are discovering how much interest they can add to a border when flowers are lacking. I wrote, “Winter is the season when evergreen broadleaved shrubs come to the fore, leaf surfaces get glossier, colours darken and extra colour appears especially pinks, creams and rubies. Here is a selection of shrubs we have just bought especially for their foliage, although some will also flower and fruit.”

 

Turning over the page we can see glaucous foliage being featured. I wrote, “As the last leaves fall from our deciduous trees and shrubs, we can appreciate their skeletal shapes. At the same time evergreens come to the centre stage. But I am going to show our evergreys in my December journal entries.”

Here is a selection of photos of some of our many glaucous foliaged plants, a climber, some shrubs and some herbaceous perennials.

One of our recent plant discoveries that we have been absolutely deilghted with is Coronilla glauca Citrina, a wonderful shrub that we grow as a climber on the trellis around our oil tank. In my journal I wrote, “Coronilla glauca Citrina is an underated winter flowering shrub with glaucous foliage and citrous coloured pea-like scented flowers. Grey and lemon together is a beautiful partnership. Equally underated are all the members of the Cotoneaster family.”

 

And here are a few of our many Cotoneasters, a family of shrubs we have grown in every garden we have ever had.

    

Turning over once more we discover two pages concerning our ongoing garden projects whch we started in the autumn.

We were forced by circumstances to rebuild our Seaside Garden when gale force winter winds broke the fence behind it. With our next door neighbours we soon got new ones back up. Seeing every negative happening as an opportunity we saw this new longer fence as a great place for interesting climbers and we decided to start the Seaside Border all over again. So at the end of the month we got started, but there is lots more to keep us occupied through part of January. I wrote, “Strong December winds destroyed a section of fence, the one backing the Seaside Garden. To repair it we had to strip out the area, plants and artefacts, but this did afford us the opportunity of refurbishing it.”

 

Here are some of the new plants waiting to go into the “new” Seaside Garden to join those we saved.

On the opposite page I talk about carrying on with our other editing jobs that we started in the autumn. I wrote, “As December draws to a close and the holiday times approach we take advantage of any dry days to catch up with our projects, new steps for the Chicken Garden, planting hundreds of bulbs and replanting the Hot Garden in its new position.”

      

And so to the last page of my 2018 Garden Journal, when I wrote, “December ended frost free. Sunshine caught special features of plants while raindrops hung on leaves, twigs and sculptures.”

Here is the final selection of photos for 2018, showing winter sunshine working its magic on foliage and droplets of rain caught after a shower.

  

“The end of my 2018 Garden Journal.”

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The Dingle Garden in December

Here we are with the final report of our monthly visit to the Dingle Gardens near Welshpool. As we drove down to Welshpool the weather just could not make its mind up what it was going to do, sunny with blue skies one minute, showers of cold rain the next. But once we were actually wandering around the gravel paths of the garden, it settled and we had a dry period for most of our walk. A few minutes of rain arrived just as we finished.

The light was dull and we noticed how variegated plants really came into their own. Gold and green, silver and green, grey and green in every possible combination and patterns. Just see in the first photo how the variegated shrub across the lawn shines out against darker foliaged trees and shrubs.

         

Variegation in conifers fails to impress me, as sadly it just looks like a bird has been perched above the foliage for a while! See what you think!

 

Variegated groundcover plants are very effective in the woodland garden as they brighten up dull areas. Silver variegation create mirror effects reflecting any light that gets through the tree canopy.

  

The raindrops hung around on glaucous foliage and we were surprised just how many plants in this woodland garden displayed glaucous leaves. Variegated foliage adds extra bright spots to woodland patches but glaucous foliage creates gentle subdued spots.

 

The oldest surviving plants in the UK are the ferns, lichens and mosses and they love the damp atmosphere of the sloping woodland garden here at The Dingle. They add such beautiful shades of bright green and bluish tints, but a few go golden and ginger as winter takes a deeper grasp on the garden.

         

Berries that were at their most prolific during the autumn months remain in evidence but only just hanging on in ones or twos.

 

Coloured bark adds interest to decorative trees in the winter and those that peel and drop sheets of their bark are even more interesting.

   

So, after twelve visits to the woodland garden at The Dingle near Welshpool, we come to the end of this year of visits. Next year we will begin a new series of garden visits. But for now I shall finish this series with a few general views of different parts of the woodland gardens.

    

 

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